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Pro-Life Movement Needs to Regroup and Recalibrate After Midterms

Posted on Thursday, November 17, 2022
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by Shane Harris
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AMAC Exclusive – Shane Harris

pro-life movement

After widespread jubilation following the Dobbs Supreme Court decision this summer, many in the pro-life movement likely now feel a sense of whiplash as they unpack a series of electoral setbacks last Tuesday. In a number of deep red states, voters rejected pro-life measures, while Democrat candidates who leaned heavily on fearmongering about “bodily autonomy” fared unexpectedly well in midterm races. But there were still some bright spots for pro-lifers, as well as some important lessons that could guide the movement to success in the months and years ahead.

With the release of the Dobbs decision on June 24, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, effectively returning the power to set restrictions on abortion to the individual states. Under Roe and Casey, every state had to allow abortion procedures until a fetus was viable outside the womb (about 23 weeks). States could then make state-specific decisions about whether or not to permit abortions later in pregnancy.

Many elected Democrats and left-wing activists insinuated that Dobbs would mean an immediate blanket ban on all abortions nationwide – a falsity the mainstream media happily helped spread like wildfire. Abortion rights became the rallying cry of the left for the midterms, and Democrats doubled down on assertions that “abortion is healthcare” and women in the United States are “under attack.” In reality, while some red states did institute more stringent restrictions on the procedure, abortion laws remained unchanged in most states, with some blue states even expanding the practice to allow abortions up until the moment of birth.

That all set the stage for ballot initiatives where voters would have the chance to decide for themselves what their state’s stance on abortion should be. In total, five states (California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, and Vermont) had abortion-related measures on the ballot last week. In each case, voters dealt the pro-life movement a significant blow.

In California, Michigan, and Vermont, voters approved measures to amend their state constitutions to enshrine a right to abortion. Given the liberal voting patterns of these states in recent years, the outcomes here were unsurprising.

The more troubling results came in Kentucky and Montana, two deep red states that conventional wisdom held would be sympathetic to protecting unborn babies.

In Kentucky, legislators proposed an amendment to the state constitution which simply stated that nothing in the Kentucky Constitution creates a right to abortion or requires government funding of abortion. In essence, the amendment would have prevented a court from saying that the Kentucky Constitution implicitly protects a right to abortion without specifically mentioning it, as the U.S. Supreme Court said about the U.S. Constitution in Roe. Voters shot down the amendment 52.4%-47.6%.

A state statute on the ballot in Montana produced an even more disturbing result. LR-131, the “Medical Care Requirements for Born-Alive Infants Measure,” would have classified any infant born alive as a legal person – thus requiring doctors to provide medical care to a baby born alive as a result of a botched abortion. Voters rejected the measure 52.5%-47.5%.

Those two defeats also came on the heels of another disappointing outcome in Kansas on August 2nd, where voters rejected an amendment to the state constitution that would have expressly granted the state legislature the power to pass laws regarding abortion. By a margin of 59%-41%, voters rejected the measure and upheld a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court ruling which held that abortion is protected under the Kansas Bill of Rights.

So, what is the pro-life movement to make of these results? Elected Democrats and the mainstream media have claimed victory, suggesting that abortion was the deciding factor in Republicans’ lackluster performance and the American people are decidedly in favor of abortion rights. But that analysis misses important nuances of the debate, and discounts important progress that the pro-life movement has made in recent months.

First, pro-lifers should not make the mistake of thinking that Dobbs or any future favorable court decisions are pyrrhic victories. While Dobbs resulted in a positive outcome for the pro-life movement, the case was about the U.S. Constitution and whether or not it protects a right to abortion. It was not about the morality of abortion itself, no matter the media spin. A central advantage the pro-life movement has is that its arguments are grounded in the plain language of written law and scientific fact. When it comes to something as critical as protecting innocent life, abandoning the legal fight for fear of real or imagined electoral backlash is unwise.

However, the pro-life movement should also recognize that it clearly faces strong cultural headwinds. For decades, every institution from Hollywood to the corporate media has romanticized abortion as an “empowering” act for women while downplaying the horrific realities of the procedure. Women who regret having an abortion are silenced and marginalized despite the lifelong trauma they endure. Combatting the relentless stream of falsehoods about abortion, pregnancy, and pro-life pregnancy centers emanating from entities like Planned Parenthood is a monumental challenge, and one the pro-life community must continue in spite of setbacks. Again, pro-lifers can be confident that protecting life is always something worth fighting for no matter the outcome of elections.

As a practical matter, pro-life politicians should embrace the view that incremental progress is better than no progress, and work to meet the public where they are. In general, polling shows that most Americans are opposed to late-term abortions but want to allow abortion early on in pregnancy. Depending on the poll, public support for abortion starts dropping around 12-15 weeks, and typically after a fetal heartbeat is detected in red states. Pro-life candidates are doing no favors to the movement by proposing policies that are out of step with the will of the electorate and losing to pro-abortion candidates in the process.

It is perhaps no coincidence that Republican governors who have legislated according to this rough model of public opinion won some of the biggest GOP victories on Tuesday. In Ohio and Texas, governors Mike DeWine and Greg Abbott – who both signed heartbeat bills into law this year – cruised to re-election wins. In Florida, Ron DeSantis, who banned abortion after 15 weeks, also easily won re-election. In places like Michigan and Pennsylvania, where Republican gubernatorial candidates struggled to clearly stake out their position on abortion, Democrats won.

Recognizing where public opinion is in their favor can also help pro-lifers expose the radicalism of the left on abortion. Democrats who oppose a 15-week ban are then put in the position of having to explain why it should be permissible to kill an unborn baby that has a heartbeat, 10 fingers and toes, and is capable of feeling pain. This turns the “compassion” argument that Democrats so frequently rely on against them, revealing the true depravity of supporting abortion up until – and in some cases even after – the moment of birth.

While last Tuesday was a setback for the pro-life movement, it was not a defeat. There are already four potential ballot initiatives dealing with abortion on the horizon in 2023, and six in 2024. Should pro-lifers learn from 2022 and continue their tireless advocacy work, better days are surely ahead.

Shane Harris is a writer and political consultant from Southwest Ohio. You can follow him on Twitter @Shane_Harris_.

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Kitty Corbett
Kitty Corbett
1 year ago

If only the Republicans would get off their “unborn baby” act they’d do much better politically. It’s the only Republican policy matter with which I disagree. A fetus does not become a baby until born alive, breathing. And until then it’s nobody else’s business whether the pregnant woman would rather abort the pregnancy.

Irv C
Irv C
1 year ago

I’m a Republican but I don’t think we have the right to tell someone they must have a child. I don’t believe in late term abortion at all. One big reason I feel this way is it’s another choice taken away. Next they will tell us we can only have one child, one car, no guns, and with the left it will be your gender will be the government choice. Keep giving up our rights and well I’m glad I won’t be around to see this insanity.

Demeter
Demeter
1 year ago

The pro-life people need to find another hobby and follow the first rule of America: MYOB. Mind your own business. Because the American public has spoken and that is their message.

Carol
Carol
1 year ago

A lot of these ballet issues are worded that a voter thinks voting no means yes and voting yes may mean no! If the ballot measures were worked in straight forward wording and not always lawyer speak, the results of these measures may be very different!

Sharon Ormsby
Sharon Ormsby
1 year ago

Heck we were saving babies as early as early as 20 weeks back in 1996, in our NICU, it’s documented!

Jeb
Jeb
1 year ago

Just imagine if people used birth control, had some self respect ( ladies, you do not need to drop on your back and spread for anyone who walks by) and responsibility. We wouldn’t even have to have this conversation. I am open to rape, incest and health of mother exceptions. I am not open to using abortion as birth control.

Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
1 year ago

Pro Life groups Must do these:

Merge on issue
Rebrand
Revamp
Remarket
Plan for new strategy
Hire new blood
Combine resources

Marc Ziegler
Marc Ziegler
1 year ago

I guess abortion (i.e., “killing babies”) is just too profitable for the dem’s and liberals to do away with infanticide. They are almost giddy over it, saying it is the best thing for women’s health. When someone or a state call for the killing of the most incident, it is generally the start and death of that society with no further redeeming features. God help us for allowing this travesty to happen!!!

Gerry Little
Gerry Little
1 year ago

So sad that truth (i.e. the pro-life position) seems to always be on the defensive and makes people “nervous” who otherwise appear to be sound in their thinking on other issues. The other side has no such hesitation in supporting their death culture. Probably why this is most often an uphill battle for the lifers.

Lynn Green
Lynn Green
1 year ago

I think the pro life movement should show graphic abortions of babies. Why not? These kids already see transgender mutalations. Show how the babies fight for their lives in the womb when an instrument is coming at him/her to kill her.

Lynn Green
Lynn Green
1 year ago

Along with displaying and showing documentary movies of live abortions to young adults who already see transgender mutalations as normal, Create a movement for them to hear that an abortion should be an elected surgery and so they should pay for the premiums and insurance coverage.
Do average middle class women qualify for the Medicaid supported Planned Parenthood programs to get an abortion? Do they need to meed an income qual before they can elect this procedure?
Scream all of this information out to the public. Coming from a religious point of view is no longer a strong argument.
You’re talking to a large group of secular people.
Show the actually facts from the graphic documentary movies and how much it SHOULD cost them.

Paul W
Paul W
1 year ago

Why am I so suspicious about the results of the constitutional amendment votes in KY and MT? Two different amendments that addressed the same general topic…the murder of unborn babies (and beyond in MT). Those votes came within one tenth of one percent from having the exact same anti-life nay-yea percentages. Not sure why I’m so cynical; I mean it has to be a coincidence, right? After all, we’ve never been given any reason to question election results as being anything other than the “free and fair” will of the people. Right? Yeah…must be a coincidence.

Rik
Rik
1 year ago

If it has a heartbeat, it’s alive period! Allowing to kill it is MURDER, plain and simple!

Amelia
Amelia
1 year ago

I had a Catholic moral theology/ medical ethics teacher back in the 90’s who would repeat, “God always will forgive, people sometimes forgive, nature never forgives”. We are living in the terrible consequences of the murder of millions of unborn babies. It can only be changed through repentance and a miracle of God.

William C Smith
William C Smith
1 year ago

Noticed Senator Schumer face-assaulting cameras encouraging a “…path to citizenship…” for all Dreamers and illegals, forever, because America is not currently sustaining a sufficient population growth to replace dying and dwindling generations, saying America needs workers to replace those dying and retiring. This is the same guy who stood on the steps below the Supreme Court bellowing about abortion and calling out two specific justices who would surely “reap the whirlwind.” I suspect this guy is secretly a fan and admirer of Margaret Sanger, the woman who advocated and campaigned to reduce and eliminate certain undesirable people populations. In 2009, he stood outside Congress declaring that illegal immigration must be halted. Need a scoreboard to keep track of the positions taken during which windstorms.

Jeff
Jeff
1 year ago

The problem with the Montana bill was the Left pushed the fact that a baby born alive with no chance of long term survival (days or a week) would be pulled from the parents arms and placed in ICU for medical care.
I was informed of this by a nurse. The issue was that parents want to hold the baby if even for a short time to say good-bye and it became a sympathy issue.
A tough call but if the baby has a brain stem cell issue or such that no medical procedure can save the child, the parents need time with that baby. It was not abortion that caused the vote to fail on the Montana bill IMO.

Pro-lifer
Pro-lifer
1 year ago

Alas, the discussion is tempered by the stark reality that voter fraud exists and tends to be more on the side of those who devalue human life. Clean up the process and we can then reevaluate.

PaulE
PaulE
1 year ago

All the Dobbs decision did was undo the incorrect and unconstitutional decision of a prior Surpreme Court, that had no legitimate constitutional basis to begin with, to enact Roe V Wade as a federal law. Roe V Wade was a political decision made at the time by the Court for political expediency, which is NOT how the Court is supposed to arrive at its decisions. Any authority not expressly granted the federal government in the United States Constitution is a States Rights issue by default. The issue is then to be determined by each individual state legislature as they see fit. That’s it. This shouldn’t be that hard to understand.

As to how each state handles the issue, it is up to the state legislature in each individual state, which is elected by the citizens of the state, to decide. The Democrat run and controlled states in this country already have either amended their state constitutions or are in the process of doing so to enshrine abortion rights for the citizens of their respective states. Most have simply opted to codify the language of Roe V Wade into their state constitutions. Some have codified abortion right up the moment of birth. Do I personally agree with going to that extreme? No, absolutely not. However, it is their legal right to do so under the United States Constitution. That is what States Rights is all about. Fifty states can each define how they handle a particular issue within their state borders any way they wish. So I don’t expect any Democrat run and controlled state to adopt any restrictions on abortion from a legal perspective. That is just the way it is. Democrats have a much different set of values on a number of issues from Republicans, Constitutional Conservatives or Libertarians and that is reflected in their state laws and state constitutions.

As for any failure by the pro-life movement in Republican run states to get the two abortion measures approved by the citizens of the two states mentioned, either the general public in those states was not properly informed about the true contents of the proposed measures or there was some language or set of conditions in the proposed measures that the voters found unacceptable and thus rejected the measures accordingly. For any ballot initiative, on any subject, it is usually one of the two. So it is up to the pro-life groups in those respective states to determine which one it is and adjust accordingly.

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